Oppenheimer has already emerged as one of the most explosive films of 2023, boasting an exceptional ensemble cast curated by Christopher Nolan. This highly anticipated war drama delves into the pivotal development of the atomic bomb, shedding light on the individuals who played significant roles in this history-making event.
Nolan himself has acknowledged the immense scope and scale of the project, considering it one of his most challenging undertakings due to the breadth of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s story.
1. Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer
One of the central figures in the film is portrayed by Cillian Murphy, who takes on the role of the titular theoretical physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Murphy expressed the weighty responsibility he felt playing the man known as the “father of the atomic bomb.” Describing Oppenheimer as a complex and iconic figure, Murphy prepared for the role by undergoing physical and mental challenges.
He notably lost a significant amount of weight to authentically portray the slim and almost emaciated appearance of Oppenheimer. The extreme diet also had an impact on his behavior, bringing him into a state of hyper-focus, mirroring the character’s intense dedication as he never seemed to eat.
2. Emily Blunt as Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer
Emily Blunt takes on the role of Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s wife, in the film. The character is portrayed as a biologist who moved with her husband to Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1943, during his work on the Manhattan Project.
While Oppenheimer covertly developed nuclear weapons, Kitty collaborated with a physician to assess the dangers posed by radiation. Blunt, speaking to PEOPLE, expressed her strong connection with her on-screen husband, played by Cillian Murphy, emphasizing the trust and rapport they had built while working together previously on A Quiet Place Part II.
Their camaraderie enhanced their performances and brought authenticity to their portrayal of the Oppenheimers’ relationship on screen.
3. Matt Damon as Leslie Groves
In the historical drama, Matt Damon takes on the role of Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, an Army Corps of Engineers officer who played a significant role in directing the Manhattan Project during World War II. Prior to that, he worked on the construction of the Pentagon.
Damon expressed his excitement about collaborating with Christopher Nolan again in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, revealing how deeply passionate he is about working with the director. He even shared a personal anecdote, mentioning that he had promised his wife, Luciana, that he would take time off from work unless Nolan offered him a role.
Damon highlighted Nolan’s secretive nature when it comes to his projects, stating that the director simply calls actors out of the blue when he has a role for them, making it a special moment in his household.
4. Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss
Robert Downey Jr. portrays Lewis Strauss, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, in the film. Strauss had a complicated relationship with Oppenheimer during the development of nuclear weapons due to their differing political and ideological beliefs.
Downey Jr. commended the film during its London premiere, declaring it as the best film he has ever been a part of, expressing his anticipation for audiences to experience it.
5. Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock
Florence Pugh plays Jean Tatlock, Oppenheimer’s mistress, who had connections with the Communist Party. This association placed Oppenheimer in a precarious position during investigations into his political affiliations.
Pugh spoke highly of Christopher Nolan’s directing approach, praising the incredible adrenaline she felt on set and the belief in oneself and the film’s vision.
6. Josh Hartnett as Ernest Lawrence
Actor Josh Hartnett portrays Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Lawrence, who played a key role in the Manhattan Project.
7. Casey Affleck as Boris Pash
Casey Affleck takes on the role of Boris Pash, a military intelligence officer tasked with interrogating Oppenheimer and others regarding their potential ties to the Communist Party. Pash eventually concluded that Oppenheimer was not a spy and should remain involved in the nuclear development efforts.
8. Kenneth Branagh as Niels Bohr
Kenneth Branagh takes on the role of Niels Bohr, one of the foundational minds of quantum physics. During World War II, Bohr supported Robert Oppenheimer and his colleagues in their efforts on the Manhattan Project.
Both Bohr and Oppenheimer shared a vision for scientific progress and nuclear development, despite being aware of the impact it would have on international affairs.
9. Benny Safdie as Edward Teller
Benny Safdie portrays Edward Teller in the film, the only member of the scientific community who testified against Oppenheimer during his security clearance hearings.
Safdie’s casting came after Nolan saw his impressive performances in films like “Good Time” (which Safdie directed with his brother) and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” Nolan received a strong endorsement for Safdie from Anderson, praising both his acting skills and his personal character.
10. Dylan Arnold as Frank Oppenheimer
Dylan Arnold, known for his role in Netflix’s “You,” showcases his drama skills as he plays Frank Oppenheimer, Robert Oppenheimer’s younger brother, in the film. Frank, like his brother, was a talented scientist who contributed to the Manhattan Project.
He later became a professor and founded the Exploratorium, a museum dedicated to science, technology, and arts.
11. Gary Oldman as President Harry S. Truman
Gary Oldman reunites with Christopher Nolan, playing President Harry S. Truman in the film. Although Oldman appears in only one scene, his portrayal is significant as he embodies the role of the president who made the fateful decision to use atomic bombs in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII.
12. Jason Clarke as Roger Robb
Jason Clarke takes on the role of U.S. attorney Roger Robb, who was selected to prosecute Oppenheimer’s security clearance hearing in 1954.
Reflecting on the story of Oppenheimer, Clarke emphasized that the full impact of his actions and leadership is still unfolding, and we continue to discover the benefits and costs of his contributions to the planet.
Another half of the casting would be revealed in the continuation post.